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NASA Space

Pioneer Anomaly Solved By 1970s Computer Graphics 169

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the whats-your-vector-victor dept.
Frans Faase updated us on a Pioneer Mystery we've been following for many years: something is tugging Pioneer 10 & 11. A few years ago a theory surfaced but now "A new computer model of the way heat is emitted by various parts of the Pioneer spacecraft, and reflected off others, finally solves one of the biggest mysteries in astrophysics. Previous calculations have only estimated the effect of reflections. A computer modeling technique called Phong shading was used to work out exactly how the the emitted heat is reflected (PDF) and in which direction it ends up traveling. Taking into account the reflections on the antenna seem to make the anomaly disappear."
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Pioneer Anomaly Solved By 1970s Computer Graphics

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  • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @11:10AM (#35678218)

    So it seems, the mystery ain't a mystery after all...

    That tends to happen when you solve them.

  • by Zephyn (415698) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @11:21AM (#35678326)

    Because focus can now be placed elsewhere instead of continuing to investigate a red herring.

    While it is sometimes disappointing that unknown effects don't always turn out to be from unknown causes, having the exciting new discoveries come from the basis of fact rather than imagination is the main difference between actual science versus everything else that claims to be science.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @11:31AM (#35678430) Homepage

    Sadly, unless it's one of the big unsolved problems or it takes a PhD to even understand the problem it's probably been solved before. We had a math book that so barely mentioned perfect numbers, I spent a lot of time reaching a result that I felt was "new". Eventually it turns out I had recreated a proof that Euler did in the 18th century. At least it wasn't the Greek, every time you feel bright then you learn someone already figured this out 2000 years ago.

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @12:26PM (#35678996) Homepage

    Well and every crackpot trying to overturn all of modern physics/cosmology without understanding it first. The number of times I've heard the Pioneer Anomaly brought up as evidence that modern physics was fundamentally broken and the Scientific Clergy refused to admit it is... very large. I think I've even heard EU morons claiming that their plasma cosmology explained the Pioneer Anomaly.

    Of course nobody who latched on to the anomaly will be satisfied by this explanation. So it goes...

  • by fatphil (181876) on Thursday March 31, 2011 @12:26PM (#35678998) Homepage
    And the earth isn't round either. It's just a closer approximation to reality than
    saying the earth is flat. Or saying that Pioneer is a spherical cow. Scientists aren't looking for something that is right rather than wrong, they are looking for something that bounds the error term in a significantly tighter way. Phong apparently does this. Presumably any ad-hoc model that approximated reality closer than what was done before would have also decreased the error bounds.

    And Oren-Nayar? Have you mistaken Pioneer for a slab of concrete?

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